We have reached the final weekend of the 2023 season, with the Nationals closing things up in Atlanta against a Braves team that already locked up a sixth straight division title and owns the majors’ best record.
In the big picture, there’s not a whole lot at stake at Truist Park over the next three nights. Which isn’t to say there’s nothing at stake. On a smaller scale, and for several individual players, there are goals still within reach.
Here are a few things to watch for in Games 160, 161 and 162 …
* Nats try to get to 70
Does it matter if the Nationals finish with 69 wins, 70 wins, 71 wins or 72 wins? Not really. But there is a symbolic reason for them to want to at least get to 70. After going 55-107 last season, a 15-game improvement would be considerable. And there’s just something that makes 70 wins sound more respectable than 69 wins.
Not long ago, 70 appeared to be a lock, and 75 or more was within reach. Following back-to-back wins in Miami in late-August, the Nats were 61-69, which equated to 76-86 over the full season. But they’ve gone a dismal 8-21 since then, and now they find themselves still needing to eke out one more win this weekend to at least get to 70.
* Personal offensive milestones
Several members of the Nationals lineup are close to reaching nice round numbers in some key offensive categories.
Lane Thomas needs to score two more runs to finish with 100 for the season, and five more RBIs to finish with 90.
Joey Meneses needs only three more RBIs to get to 90.
CJ Abrams needs two more homers to get to 20 and join Thomas as first-time members of the 20-20 Club. Abrams already reached that mark in stolen bases long ago, but if he can swipe two more bags this weekend he’ll match Trea Turner’s single-season club record with 46 steals.
* Three starters have something to prove
Each of the three pitchers the Nationals are scheduled to send to the mound this weekend has a goal in mind.
Trevor Williams, who starts tonight after a 12-day layoff, desperately needs to finish strong after a ragged second half. Williams had a respectable 4.28 ERA at the end of June, but in 13 starts since he’s posted an unsightly 7.23 ERA, raising his season mark to 5.55. That’s the highest ERA in the National League among all pitchers with at least 140 innings. One quality start isn’t going to completely rewrite his season story, but it would at least send him into the winter on a positive note.
Joan Adon, who starts Saturday, has made nine starts since his promotion from Triple-A Rochester in early-August and has looked good in three of them. The other six have been much like we saw from the right-hander last year. It’s a tough assignment against the same Atlanta lineup that handed him a loss Sunday in D.C., but it would be nice to see Adon bounce back and finish strong.
Jackson Rutledge, who starts Sunday’s finale, struggled in his major league debut but looked quite good his next two times out. That includes five innings of one-run ball against the Braves his last time out, making for a compelling storyline in the rematch. Will the rookie stick with what worked, or will he try to make some adjustments?